Biden is in Puerto Rico to see what the island needs to recover

President Joe Biden, with first lady Jill Biden, delivers remarks on Hurricane Fiona, Monday, Oct. 3, 2022, in Ponce, Puerto Rico. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Biden traveled to Puerto Rico Monday to meet with victims who were pummeled by Hurricane Fiona two weeks ago, and pledged to ensure the U.S territory is better prepared for future storms.

The president announced more than $60 million in funding to help coastal areas rebuild better prepared for severe storms, ensuring things are built to last.

“And I mean rebuild it all, and rebuilt it in a resilient way, so that when storms come again, which they will, they’re not having the damage that they’ve caused before,” Biden said from the southern community of Ponce.

Earlier Monday, Biden said he was traveling to the U.S. territory because, “they haven’t been taken very good care of.” It’s a point he reiterated while speaking in Puerto Rico, listing off the hurdle Puerto Ricans have faced in recent years, from previous hurricanes and COVID-19 to earthquakes.

“Puerto Rico is a strong place, and Puerto Ricans are strong people, but even so, you have had to bear so much, and more than need be. And you haven’t gotten the help in a timely way.”

Hurricane Fiona hit Puerto Rico on Sept. 18 as a Category 1 storm, delivering over 30 inches of rain, which engulfed entire communities, destroyed roads and critical infrastructure and killed at least 13 people.

As of last Wednesday, there are over 1,000 federal response workers on the ground in Puerto Rico — including more than 100 search and rescue personnel— to help the island recover from the hurricane. The U.S. Department of Transportation dedicated $8 million to repair bridges and roadways, according to the White House.

It’s been five years since Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm, the worst storm in the island’s modern history. That storm killed nearly 3,000 people and caused over $100 billion in damage.

Then-President Donald Trump traveled to Puerto Rico after that storm — five years to the day of Biden’s trip there Monday — and joked with the victims about how much they were costing the U.S. before lobbing paper towels into the crowd, a move many deemed insensitive.

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